All My Hope

Trust me on what I am about to say, be careful who you trust.

If you are anything like me, a living breathing human being, chances are that at one point in time someone somewhere let you down. Chances are that you put your trust in a person, organization, institution, or any other entity, only to see that trust misplaced as you walked away sadder but wiser.

Now, please understand what I am saying here. I am not advocating that we never trust other people, we actually do need one another. We need to rely on our close loved ones, we cannot, or at least should not, do this “life-thing” alone. But, we should be careful who we do trust. Even then, even if we are careful about who we trust, we still should not be surprised if, or more likely, when they fail us.

So, what do we do during the times where we face disillusionment? How do we respond to people and organizations who misuse our trust? How do we even move forward in the midst of our frustrations?

As always, we take our cue from God’s Word.

First, we need to understand that people, ourselves included, are fallible. We make mistakes, we mess up, we make errors in judgment, we disappoint, we sin. You don’t have to look past the reflection in a mirror to find a person who doesn’t have it all together and who is more than capable of letting others down. The Bible says that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) That means that all of us have sinned and therefore fallen short of God’s perfect standard of living. Therefore, it should not be a big surprise when a human being or a human run organization lets you down. We should actually expect it.

But there is also good news on the “fallible human front.” We actually can be better. 2 Corinthians 5:17 promises that if anyone is in Christ then they are a new creation. The old has passed away and the new has come. Does that mean when a person becomes a Christian they are automatically perfect and perfectly trustworthy? No. But, as we let the Spirit work in our lives we will become more and more like Jesus. As a result of becoming more like Jesus, we should become more trustworthy as well. But again, we are still human. Humans will always eventually let you down.

Therefore, our ultimate and unwavering source of hope must be in God alone. We can, should, and need to trust in Him. He will not fail us because He cannot fail us. Take a moment to remind yourself of these truths,

Psalm 9:10 “Those who know your name trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.

Psalm 13:5 “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.”

Psalm 20:7 “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.”

Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Revelation 21:5 “He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

The Lord, He is God and He is trustworthy and true. People will fail you, I promise you that, but God never will. His love has, is, and will continue to pursue you. His steadfast love and kindness is literally following you around everywhere you go.

He will hold you in the midst of your hurt and pain. He will guide you when you don’t know where to go. He will pick you up when you can’t move. He will comfort you when you are alone. He will be trustworthy when everyone else is not.

In fact, Romans 5 tells us the beautiful truth that “while we were weak” and “at the right time” Jesus died for us. He provided for our most desperate need while we were weak and His “enemies.”

If anyone is worth trusting it would certainly be the one who gave His life for you.

As I write all of this, there is a song called, “All My Hope” by Crowder that I just can’t get out of my head, so I’ll link it here.

Our trust is not in men, women, governments, organizations, nor Institutions.

Our trust is in God alone.

 

 

 

 

MLK Jr. & Light in the Midst of Darkness

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. “

This weekend, for many students and teachers, was a three-day weekend. I remember, when I was in school, always looking forward to three-day weekends. Monday holidays were always my favorite. Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, President’s Day, Casimir Pulaski Day, (you only would know that if you’re from the great state of Chicago… I uh, mean Illinois) Labor Day, and of course Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

But I want to take a few moments to remind all of us that yesterday wasn’t just about getting a day off. Yesterday was a day to celebrate and commemorate the life of a wonderful, godly, loving, caring, and courageous man.

Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was born as Michael King Jr. on January 15th, 1929. His father, Michael Sr. actually legally changed his own name, as well as his son’s, after a trip to Germany. During that trip, Michael Sr., a Baptist preacher, was so impressed by the life of the famous reformer that he made the legal switch in names in order to honor the hero of the Reformation.

King Jr.’s new name would perfectly fit his life’s work. He was in every way a true reformer of social, civil, and political norms.

The amazing man lived his life in such a way that inspired others to live in the same way. He truly walked the walk to back up his talk. He was a Christian who followed Jesus not only in word but in action.

King has so many incredible quotes. Yesterday, I was scrolling through my social media feeds and I saw quote upon quote from Dr. King. The extra cool thing was that I rarely saw a quote repeated. This is even more proof that this world changer had so much to say that we all should continue to listen.

It is one particular quote of his that I want to focus on today. It just happens to be one of my absolute favorites. The following is from a sermon that the good reverend gave back in 1957.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. “

Perhaps one reason why I love this quote so much is that it reminds me a lot of another line from a very quotable source.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)

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The verse in John is talking all about Jesus-the light who came into the world to bring light and life to those who were dead in darkness. The darkness has not, will not, and cannot overcome the light that Jesus brings.

King’s quote is so impactful because it reminds us that more atrocity cannot put an end to atrocities, more hate cannot put an end to hatefulness, and more sin cannot put an end to our sinfulness. An argument isn’t ended by raised voices, all that results in is a louder room.

Unfortunately, in today’s culture, many things that Dr. King fought for and stood against are still hot-topic issues. However, we must remember that the fight against injustices is an ongoing one. And please, hear me clearly, this is our fight. As followers of Jesus Christ, no matter what the color our skin, we must stand against injustice. We must be light-bearers who, as we reflect the one true light, send darkness packing. We must remember that the root of our issues and frustrations are not caused by politics, nor economic status, not even race…but sin.

Sin is a thing that every single human being (no matter what background, race, intelligence, religion, nationality, or anything else) has in common. Thankfully, the Savior of the world is an equal opportunity rescuer.

In Luke chapter 4 Jesus read a Scripture from the Old Testament.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Jesus then sat back and humbly said, (I’m heavily paraphrasing) “This is all about me. I am now doing all these things.”

Jesus was all about Saving the world, something only He could do through His death on the cross. Jesus was also all about justice, and therefore, we should be too. I’m reminded of a lyric from one of my favorite music groups, Beautiful Eulogy, and their song, “Slain.”

“I’m not afraid to talk about social injustices

Let’s also talk about the throne where perfect justice is

It sounds insensitive and some will hate the stench of it

But the church is not faithful if we fail to mention it

We worship a God who can speak to the world’s pain

Because salvation for us came through the Lamb who was slain”

 

Did you catch that second line? I hope so because I underlined it. Perfect justice can and will only come from God Himself. That truth is something that we believers need to talk about…and not stop talking about.

I think that Martin Luther King Jr. would agree, after all, he did say,

“The God whom we worship is not a weak and incompetent God. He is able to beat back gigantic waves of opposition and to bring low prodigious mountains of evil. The ringing testimony of the Christian faith is that God is able.”

When You Just “Can’t Even”

Okay, I know the title of this sounds like something a teenage girl would text to a friend after finding out that there is homework due the next day, but hang with me for a moment.

From all that I have been able to deduce the phrase “can’t even” can be equated to saying, “I’m emotionally dumbfounded.” In fact, according to the internet, the phrase is used when a person has so many emotional responses to a situation that they just can’t even comprehend what is going on.

I don’t know about you, but I can think of many different situations where I have been left emotionally dumbfounded. Life is full of circumstances that are hard and confusing and, if we allow them to, they weigh on us so much until we can’t even stand it anymore. Often times we allow our anxieties and stresses to rule over us.

So, what do we do when we just simply can’t even?

We need to trust that when we can’t God can.

Jesus literally gives us the answer here in Matthew 11:28-29, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Additionally, 1 Peter 5:7, reminds us that we ought to be, “casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

Why should we go to Him when we are burdened? Because He can give us rest. Why should we cast our cares and anxieties on Him? Because He cares for us. Why should we lay our burdens down? Because He can carry them with ease.

Another thing that we need to realize and remember is that emotions can be tricky things. Emotions are good things that help us connect to events and to one another. I feel as though I can’t overstate this, emotions are not bad, it is ok for you to feel how you feel. However, with that being said, we need to understand that emotions can be very misleading. So, when we are in the midst of a highly emotionally charged situation it is good to take a step back and refocus on the truth that we know. Emotions can change from day to day or even hour to hour, but the truth always remains.

God is true, and His Word is truth. Next time you feel like you just can’t even take a moment to step back and run to the Bible for help, support, and direction. I use the word “run” because I want to convey the urgency in which we should be going to read our Bibles. 1 Peter tells us that God has given us everything we need for life and godliness. All the answers and wisdom we need can be found in His love letter to us. His Word is literally a lamp unto our feet and a light to our path. (Psalm 119:105)

In addition to running to God’s Word, we should remember that we can talk to God faster than we can text a friend or update our status. Prayer is so much more than a list of rote phrases that you repeat for different occasions. Neither is prayer a performance where you try to wow others by your “talking to God skills.” No, prayer is much deeper and much simpler than that. Prayer is communication with God. That statement is so very simple and yet incredibly complex. The God of the universe who holds galaxies in His hands and breathes life into being- is the same God who cares enough about you to listen to your smallest and silliest requests. To Him, your request and burdens matter because you matter.

I thank God for Philippians 4:6-7 for summing everything up so perfectly. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

We are promised that when we take our burdens to God, the peace of God (which by the way, surpasses any and all of our understanding) will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. That is incredible! When we are emotionally dumbfounded, when we are at the end of our rope, when we just can’t even, God can and will give us peace.

So, next time that you feel overwhelmed just remember; when you can’t even move forward, find the answer, deal, cope, reason, feel, or understand…God can.

Find your rest in Him.

Own Worst Enemy

I somewhat recently went to the theater and enjoyed a new movie that didn’t include Jedi in the title (although that one was great too.) As I walked out of the movie theater two things happened. First, I picked a few rogue pieces of popcorn out of my jacket, and second, I began reflecting on what I had just watched. Perhaps my favorite part of the movie was how conflict developed in the story. I walked out of the theater realizing that the story’s biggest antagonist was also the biggest protagonist. For those of us who have forgotten our 6th-grade literature class, this basically means that our hero’s biggest enemy was himself.

The concept of a man vs. self conflict is certainly not a new one, but it did get me thinking about my own Josh vs. Self-narrative. Here we are on the second day of a brand new year. Many of us have set goals for ourselves in the new year. A few years back my new year’s goal was to get six pack abs, I would have accomplished that goal easily if it weren’t for my love of donuts, but I digress.

Many of us have either resolved ourselves to do something more or resolved to do something less. These goals, or resolutions, are often good and very well-meaning, unfortunately, many people find themselves at the beginning of February frustrated and ready to give up. So how do we make sure that our goals for the new year don’t go unrealized? Well, I think we need to first understand that often times our own worst enemy is ourselves.

Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I know that the Bible depicts the Devil is the enemy of our souls. He is a liar who seeks to discourage, kill, accuse,  and make us as ineffective in this life as possible. However, I do think that sometimes we give him a bit too much credit. Saying, “I didn’t read my Bible today because the Devil stopped me,” is as silly of a statement as, “I didn’t go to the gym today because it was cold outside.” No, we choose not to go to the gym for the same reason we choose not to read our bibles, we are lazy and don’t feel like it.

Is the Devil happy that you didn’t read your bible? Sure, of course. But he cannot make you do anything that didn’t already chose to do.

We are our own worst enemy. But God is our biggest ally…and all He does is win.

Where does this come from? Why are we this way? And what can we do about it? Thankfully the Bible answers these questions.

Romans 5:12 says, “sin came into the world through one man, [Adam] and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” We are sinners by nature and by choice and so, therefore, our default setting is to love the things that hurt us the most.

The letter of James tells us in chapter 1, “each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.”  Did you catch that? The temptations we face are our own sinful desires luring and enticing us. Even Paul struggled with this in Romans 7 and we are just like him, we do what we should despise. We love what we ought to hate.

Thankfully, as always, there is hope. Psalm 73:26, “My flesh and heart may fail, but God is my strength.” You may be your own worst enemy, but your biggest ally is far greater and far stronger.

And 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away, behold the new has come.” If you are in Christ Jesus the old is gone and the new has come. Don’t listen to your own lies, God has made you new.

The start of a new year is a wonderful time to start fresh, be disciplined, and set a precedent for how we will live for the next 12 months. In order to do these things, we need to get out of our own way and allow God to transform us by His Holy Spirit.

Let’s allow God to work in us so that when we look in the mirror we don’t see our own worst enemy, but instead we see a person who is continually being transformed into the image of the Son. When people look at us, they should see a reflection of Jesus.

The goals that we set for the year will only be accomplished if we choose to rely on God rather than ourselves. A great place to start learning how to rely on God is by digging into the Bible. I would highly recommend finding a Bible reading plan for 2018! If you need help finding one or even just need a friendly reminder to stay on track I would love to help, just shoot me a message.

Happy New Year.